But some educators have expressed concern about taking that course of action.
A revised version of House Bill 35, drafted by Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, has been passed out of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and is headed to the House floor for a vote.
The bill would give local school boards the authority to designate any number of employees to carry concealed weapons. It would provide for some training criteria, but would largely leave decision making on training to the local boards. The person or persons selected to carry firearms would have to obtain weapons carry permits, in addition to meeting other requirements, such as undergoing background checks.
The bill was pre-filed in December, following public outcry over the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 20 students and six school administrators.
“I’m in complete support of House Bill 35,” said District 68 Rep. Dusty Hightower, R-Carrollton. “I campaigned on less government and local control and this bill gives complete discretion to the local school boards by allowing our local school board the option to allow certain employees, who have volunteered, to carry a firearm.”
Under Battles’ revised plan, local school boards would be allowed to designate any employee — not just administrators — to carry guns in school. No employee could be punished if they refused to participate.
The new version would also require that firearms be kept on the authorized school employee or in a secured box so students or other unauthorized people cannot take them, Battles said. No school system could be held legally liable for their decision to either arm or not arm their workers.
But school employees and their districts could still be held legally responsible is a shooting is determined to be unjustified.
“The bill also says that a local school board can choose not to allow employees to carry a firearm,” Hightower said. “Therefore, each local school board will get to choose what works for them and their district. We simply opened the door to give school boards an option.”
In addition, he said the bill declares that the local school board is in charge of deciding what training it will require of those employees who will be carrying a firearm.
“Again, it’s local control,” he added. “This not a mandate in any way. This bill gives local school boards another tool to choose from when they discuss how to better protect our children. After the recent school massacres, we owe it to our children to explore any and all options when it comes to protecting them.”
District 18 Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, said he’ll be voting in favor of the legislation.
“After revisions in subcommittee, I decided to support it,” he said. “It’s a good start to safeguard our schools and children. I would, however, like to see the gun free zone label in all areas, including K-12, removed because it prevents law abiding citizens with carry and conceal permits from exercising their constitutional rights.”
District 69 Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, said he supports House Bill 35.
“It gives local boards the opportunity to decide if they wish to adopt this measure to protect students,” Nix said. “ It’s completely voluntary for local leaders to decide.”
Dr. Jon Anderson, chairman of the Carroll County Board of Education, said he hasn’t taken an official stance on the legislation.
However, he did say that he thinks it’s a good thing anytime the state allows locally elected officials to make final decisions.
Nevertheless, Anderson has some concerns over the actions proposed by the bill.
“Making a local school official also personally responsible for the physical safety of students, by defending them at gunpoint, may be beyond their scope of duties and preparations,” Anderson said. “The best alternative would likely be to increase the total of school resource officers, which we now have carrying guns in schools.”